More drones coming to airspace near you?
Keep your eyes on the skies. A bill working its way through Congress could dramatically increase the number of drones allowed in U.S. airspace, the Wall Street Journal
The House of Representatives on Feb. 3 passed a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that would ease restrictions on the places unmanned aerial vehicles are allowed to fly. The robotic aircraft have mostly been used by law enforcement agencies and by the military in combat zones, and the FAA has limited their widespread use in national airspace because of concerns that their lack of "detect, sense and avoid" technology could raise the risk of midair collisions, according to the Los Angeles Times
The bill would direct the FAA to find a way of bringing many smaller UAVs into general and commercial air traffic by September 2015. It would set up six test areas around the country for demonstrating safety technology to minimize the risk of UAVs colliding with larger aircraft.
The military has used drones in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the Homeland Security Department has employed them along the U.S. border with Mexico, according to the Washington Post
. As of Dec. 1, the FAA reported more than 270 active authorizations for the use of several types of drones. The Defense Department held 35 percent of the permissions, NASA held 11 percent, and DHS had 5 percent, the Post reported. The rest were granted to other law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, academic institutions and companies that manufacture UAVs.
The Wall Street Journal reports that if the drone provision becomes law, state and local governments and private companies could launch large drone fleets in the foreseeable future.